If Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir ever perform in the Bible Belt, they’ll want to bring a documentary film crew, the group’s lead singer, Baptiste, joked during a recent interview at a Plateau Mont-Royal pub.
It’s easy to see why. On its website, the Montreal quartet describes itself as a “secular, rabble-rousing, queerpositive, feminist, subversive gospel music band,” which – let’s go out on a limb here – might not play so well to a fundamentalist demographic.
The group’s mission – to help nonreligious people, including atheists, connect with the gospel music its members love so much – emerged pretty much fully formed during the first living-room jam between Baptiste and John the Bassist. (The members of the group, which also includes pianist Hereticus Monk and Little Drummer Boy, identify themselves solely by their stage names.)
“We decided we’d keep all the essence, the joy, the jubilation and everything that’s good about gospel music, while removing the whole divinity of it, so it’s not necessarily a conversation directly to God, but more about tackling social issues,” Baptiste said.